Nayland Blake is an artist, writer, educator, and curator. Heavily inspired by feminist and queer liberation movements, and subcultures ranging from punk to kink, Blake’s multidisciplinary practice considers the complexities of representation, particularly racial and gender identity, play and eroticism, and the subjective experience of desire, loss, and power. The artist’s sustained meditation on “passing” and duality as a queer, biracial (African American and White) person is grounded in postminimalist and conceptual approaches made personal through an idiosyncratic array of materials (such as leather, medical equipment, and food) and the tropes of fairy tales and fantasy.
Born in New York City in 1960, Blake attended Bard College and then California Institute of the Arts. After receiving a Master of Fine Arts, they moved to San Francisco in 1984. They have had one-person exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; University of California Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; and the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. Their works are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Studio Museum in Harlem, and many others. They have authored numerous catalogue essays, as well as articles and interviews appearing in such publications as Artforum, Out, Interview, and Outlook. In 1995 they were co-curator, with Lawrence Rinder, of the landmark exhibition In A Different Light, at the University of California Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the first museum exhibition to examine the impact of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer artists on contemporary art. In 2017, they curated Tag, Propositions on Queer Play and the Way Forward at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania.
Established in 2006 by a generous gift from Bill and Stephanie Sick, this distinguished visiting professorship enables internationally renowned artists and designers to visit and teach at SAIC.